California is closing in on its 2020 renewable energy mandate

The California Energy Commission (CEC) recently released a report which shows that the state has made remarkable progress towards reaching its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) targets. CEC estimates that as of November, California utilities were getting 30% of their electricity from renewables, which puts it within striking distance of the 33% by 2020 target, and more than halfway towards its 50% by 2030 mandate.

 

As previously reported, California’s large utilities are well ahead of their RPS mandates.

Of the sources in CEC’s measure, solar was the largest and supplied 27 terawatt-hours (TWh) of power, or 36% of all RPS-compliant renewables. This means that solar was meeting 10.8% of total electricity demand in the state as a whole, which is in line with figures from the federal government for the first nine months of the year. It is notable that unlike figures from the state’s grid operator, both the federal government and CEC are tracking the output of customer-owned, behind-the-meter solar.

2017 estimated RPS-eligible generation (in-state and out-of-state)

Wind came in a relatively close second, with 23 TWh, or 31% of all RPS-compliant renewables, meaning that wind and solar together are supplying 20% of the state’s power.

The report also tracks the geographic location of renewables. Only three counties host more than 1 GW of solar: Kern, Imperial and Riverside. All three are large counties with many sparsely-populated areas and are in the southern half of the state, and much of the state’s large-scale solar has been built there.

 

The role of CCAs

A further issue explored by the report is the role of Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs), in which cities or counties opt to procure their own electricity sources, usually with the goal of moving more quickly to renewable energy. According to the latest RPS reports CCAs are meeting this goal, and CEC notes that they are becoming more widespread, The agency charts eight active CCAs serving 900,000 customers, with seven more expected to launch in 2018, and 13 more under exploration.

Operational, pending and potential CCAsCEC

CEC notes that the California Public Utilities Commission is considering changes to capacity procurement by CCAs, and notes that CCA customers are required to pay fees to offset the impact of departing load from investor-owned utilities and to minimize the financial impact of stranded assets.

California’s energy authorities are clearly uncomfortable with the growth of CCAs, and CEC estimates that they could serve up to 85% of California customers in the next decade. “The potential widespread growth of CCAs presents both opportunities and challenges for renewable development, as well as raising broader considerations of reliability, load uncertainty, and cost allocation,” warns CEC.